Airbus CEO Vows To Keep A380 On Schedule

Brushing aside speculation that manufacturing and engineering difficulties had again put the project behind schedule, Airbus CEO pledged Friday to meet target of 12 aircraft this year.

TOULOUSE, France (AP) -- Airbus will meet its target of delivering 12 A380 super jumbo aircraft this year, the company's CEO pledged Friday, brushing aside recurring speculation that manufacturing and engineering difficulties had again put the project behind schedule.

The 525-seat, A380 has been plagued by delays due to missteps, technical setbacks, communication failures and financial improprieties that have tarnished Airbus' image. The first in a series of costly delays was announced in June 2005.

In May, the European aircraft maker cut its delivery forecast by one A380 this year and by four in 2009, due to continued problems with the huge aircraft's wiring.

"I'm ready to take a bet that we will deliver more than 10 aircraft, more than 11 aircraft," CEO Tom Enders said Friday. "The target is 12. I confirmed it two days ago, I confirm it today."

Enders spoke at a ceremony in the southern French city of Toulouse marking the hand-over to Australian carrier Qantas Airways of the first of the 20 A380s it has on order.

Qantas Chief Executive Geoff Dixon said the airline was forced to "aggressively" adapt its flight schedules because of the Airbus delays, but said he was so pleased with the A380 that he was already considering ordering more.

Without the delays, Qantas would already have eight to 12 A380s by now, Dixon said,

"It's two years and two months behind," Dixon said. "But that's history, we've adapted. We'd have liked to have the aircraft, but we're getting it now, and we'll probably get more."

Dixon declined to say exactly how many additional A380s Qantas was thinking about ordering. Qantas expects to receive three more of the superjumbos by the end of this year.

The airline is also beginning talks with Airbus about a possible order for the planemaker's A350 long-haul aircraft. The talks will take place over the next six months, Dixon said.

Also on Friday workers went on strike at Airbus sites in Toulouse and Saint-Nazaire, in northwest France. In Toulouse, between 150-300 workers walked off the job for two hours, gathering near the area where the Qantas delivery was taking place. The strikers, who were protesting a planned restructuring under the "Power-8 plus" cost-cutting plan, did not disrupt the ceremony.

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